The government is set to spend P4.5 billion for the purchase of new trains that will significantly increase the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) line’s passenger capacity.
The improvements would be done despite the rights over the MRT line being in the hands of private shareholders, led by the group of Manuel V. Pangilinan.
“The money is already with the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA),” a Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) source privy to the details of the expansion said.
The source requested anonymity because of lack of authority to speak publicly about the deal.
The source said the LRTA, which operates the LRT Green and Purple lines (formerly Lines 1 and 2), would act as the procurement agent for the transaction to avoid any legal issues that may be raised by the MRT’s private shareholders.
As much as five new trains, made up of three coaches each, could be bought with the money. This would add to the MRT line’s current fleet of 20 trains—all of which are over a decade old and are prone to frequent breakdowns.
The budget for the purchase was released by the Department of Budget of Budget and Management last December.
The acquisition would increase the MRT’s designed capacity to around 440,000 passengers a day, from the current 350,000.
The congested train line on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) is used by nearly 500,000 passengers on average weekdays.
“Whenever any of these trains break down, the effect on passengers is significant because there are so many taking the MRT,” the source said.
He said a technical working group (TWG) made up of government and private sector experts are currently working to finalize the specifications of train cars to be purchased.
The Pangilinan group acquired control over the MRT Corp. consortium, holder of the build-lease-transfer (BLT) contract for the train line, from the group of John Sobrepeña last year.